2018-19 L.T. Shanks Travel Scholarship Lecture - Kleon Tran: New Zealand’s “Isolation in the Sublime”

Friday, November 16, 2018 - 1:30pm to 2:30pm
Collage by Kleon Tran
Collage by Kleon Tran

The L.T. Shanks Travel Scholarship is a scholarship for architecture students from Cal Poly Pomona that supports travel and research, based on a previously submitted proposal. This year’s recipients are Franco Mellone and Kleon Tran, who will present their travel and research in a public lecture at Cal Poly Pomona. 

Kleon Tran will give the second of two L.T. Shanks sponsored lectures. His research project took him to New Zealand. The title of his talk is “New Zealand’s 'Isolation in the Sublime.'"

New Zealand's geographical isolation from most of the world has produced a distinct cultural condition present even in today’s digital age of globalization. In literature, art, and design practice, this isolation is shown in themes of improvisation, of making-do, and of being subject to constantly changing environments. This attention to ephemerality and change also connects to tangata whenus perspectives or Māori concepts of place, which stand strongly at odds with the idea of conquering or dominating nature. In the context of architecture, these dual factors have bred a cultural myth visualized as an image of architecture standing alone against a sublime landscape.

New Zealand has enthusiastically adopted the detached experience of suburbia, and its architecture is tailored to the country’s context and culture, creating a filtered, displaced timeline in its development relative to the influences of the rest of the world. For these reasons, design approaches that accommodate variability, change, and responsiveness can be seen as particularly culturally apt and remain as themes present in New Zealand’s architectural discourse. New Zealand has mostly remained in obscurity and is largely overlooked in the gaze of global architectural recognition. This isolation has had the benefit of making New Zealand’s architecture a frontier for exploration, creatively and technologically.

The research and travel explored how these themes and qualities have unfolded in multiple factors in New Zealand’s architecture. The connections that may be found in the intersections of these forces provide insight in how New Zealand’s architecture will project itself forward and if it may become a powerhouse model for contemporary development in the near future. In essence, what really lies dormant in the foundations of New Zealand’s context and how will these propel its architecture forward in the recognition of the world?